Sunday, May 30, 2021

I have once again finished A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

I have once again finished A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, the first book of her Earthsea Cycle. 

While the rest of my generation went by train to Hogwarts with Harry, I (after falling in love with and leaving Tolkien's Middle-earth) traveled by ship to the School of Roke on the Isle of the Wise with Ged. So reading this again was, for me, probably not unlike when others reread Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone experiencing anew the magic of the first School of Magic one ever attended. While others dream of sitting under the Sorting Hat in the Great Hall, I desire to give my name to the Master Doorkeeper and be greeted by the Archmage in the Court of the Fountain. Yet Ged faced not an evil wizard but, rather, his own shadow, for spells cast in pride and hate will lead to ruin and a nameless terror that, in the end, can only be healed by naming it. As Ged did on the open sea.

“To hear, one must be silent.” - Ogion the Silent, Wizard of Re Albi

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Amazon's Wheel of Time TV series has been renewed for Season 2

There can be no doubt that Amazon means to knock HBO's Games of Thrones off its proverbial throne of TV series success. Their The Lord of the Rings TV adaptation alone is proof of this, but now they have really declared themselves. How? Well, season one of its The Wheel of Time TV series recently finished filming and Amazon is apparently fond of it enough to have already renewed it for a second season; a bold move, seeing as no viewers have as yet seen it, though hardly shocking I suppose. After all, a fourteen volume work such as Robert Jordan's heavyweight masterwork is not even read lightly, much less made into a TV series with anything less than a resolute determination to see the Age through. An Age called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past...

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.


Saturday, May 22, 2021

An overdue return to Earthsea

Having read all save the final novella in Tales from Earthsea, which was written as a dragon-bridge between volumes four and five of the Earthsea Cycle, I have decided to not read it now but instead read it both now and in order. Meaning I have just once again started A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, the first book of her Earthsea Cycle.
 
Reading the Tales from Earthsea brought all the magic of the Archipelago to me; a spell first cast not long after my father had read The Lord of the Rings to me for the first time, when I was new to the ways of Fantasy. An Archipelago which impacted me in a manner no other land save Middle-earth has. Yet I realized that I had not reread it since early high school if not even late middle school! I realized how many small details I had forgotten. Horrible thought! So now I return to the Isles that Segoy raised from the sea with a word. To revisit properly and fully those storied shores with Ged, who in his day became both dragonlord and Archmage. But this first book is the tale of his schooling and how he named the shadow.
 
'"Only in silence the word,
Only in dark the light,
Only in dying life:
Bright the hawk's flight
On the empty sky.'
— The Creation of √Ča"

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Saruman and Macbeth

All who have read or even just watched The Lord of the Rings knows that the March of the Ents in their successful assault on Isengard is beyond question both one of the most memorable and epic events in the War of the Ring. Yet, interesting, what is less commonly known is how that scene took shape in the mind of J.R.R. Tolkien, what planted the inspirational seeds, as it were. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the answer is the name of another giant in English and indeed world literature, one whose works are admired by and an inspiration to countless people. That name being William Shakespeare. What will come as a surprise, however, is that those seeds of inspiration planted in Tolkien were not born of admiration but, rather and in Tolkien's own words, "bitter disappointment and disgust".

"What?" I can hear you asking in confusion. Well, I will answer but, before I do, I must offer a SPOILER warning as what I am about to say will spoil part of the ending of Shakespeare's justly famous play Macbeth. Moving right along now and short play shorter (Macbeth is the Bard's shortest play), the three witches give Macbeth a prophesy part of which states that he and his ill-gotten crown will be safe until Great Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane Hill. A foretelling which relieves Macbeth, making him feel secure, because he knows that forests cannot possibly move. Interesting, is it not, that Macbeth has seen the witches' magic and yet instantly dismisses the notion of an army of trees coming to besiege a castle? Of course, Saruman had even less of an excuse since he had met Treebeard, knew the Ents to be his neighbors, and yet neither expected nor made a plan accounting for the possibility that they might take serious offense at his Uruk-hai going into the their forests with large axes. 

Anyway, Macbeth gets a rather nasty shock when his scouts report that the Great Birnam Wood is coming. Except that, while it was the fulfillment of the witches' prophecy, it was not the actual Wood. Rather it was a trick. His enemy, Macduff, is leading an army against Dunsinane Castle, and while encamped in Birnam Wood orders his troops to cut down and carry tree branches to camouflage their numbers. Hence, to Macbeth from atop his walls, it merely seems that the Great Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane Hill.

Thus were planted the seeds of the March of the Ents, for in a letter to the poet (and his longtime friend) W.H. Auden, Tolkien notes that the Ents were possibly spawned from his own frustration with Shakespeare's Macbeth. In his own words: "Their part in the story is due, I think, to my bitter disappointment and disgust from schooldays with the shabby use made in Shakespeare of the coming of 'Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill'." It is also interesting to note that both Saruman and Macbeth were traitors.

Speaking purely for myself and, I believe, many others, I think the March of the Ents is far more epic – both as a piece of literature and on general principle – than the Great Birnam Wood coming to Dunsinane Hill in Macbeth. J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and the plays of William Shakespeare are so different that is impossible to compare the two authors; the works of both were and are literary masterpieces and cultural icons of the absolute highest order. Yet, in this matter of besieging forests, I think it is pretty clear that the Founder of Modern Fantasy did a better job than the Bard.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Five Capes of Accomplishment

Today I accomplished one of those rare decade long goals, that being reaching level 99 in all of RuneScape's major combat skills. I achieved 99 in Magic, Ranged, and Prayer while back, Defense two days ago and, today, within fifteen minutes of each other, Strength, Constitution, and Attack. 

A gaming event like this may not seem like much, but any true Scaper knows that is the long awaited end of a journey that began with one wielding bronze equipment against the chickens and goblins at Lumbridge, then the stronger goblins in Goblin Village (I spent eons there), then against the guards at Falador and Varrock, fighting other players in the Soul Wars, all the while doing Quests in which once faces down gradually yet notably more lethal foes. Each victory giving a great sense of personal accomplishment that is remembered down the years; from Elvarg the Dragon of Crandor to Sliske and his wights.

It is a journey that takes one from the Champions Guild to Heroes Guild, with the Magic, Ranging, and Warriors ones in between, all the way up the Legends Guild which, since one can enter with below level 90 combat skills, is but the first epic half of the journey whose ultimate destination is the Max Guild (which I have yet to reach since it is only available to players who have attained at least level 99 in all 28 skills). Point of order, the reason I achieved these four 99s practically simultaneously is because, from those first endless days in training in Goblin Village and the all the many years since, I have kept my Defense, Strength, Constitution, and Attack levels and Exp the same.

Hence, lately during Double Exp events using combat training dummies, I have always grown these levels simultaneously. And now the journey ends. Honestly it is a lot to take it, for I will miss training these skills; each time I switched which training dummies and what skill to get Exp in reminded me of doing the same against goblins and guards. I still feel the warm glow of nostalgia when entering Goblin Village, hearing that classic music which played across so many weeks.

Finally, speaking of Guilds and 99s, I achieved Crafting level 99 during the current Double Exp event as well. A seemingly random addition to this post, yet, way back, it was the Crafting Guild which first alerted and excited me about getting into the many RuneScape Guild, leading to hours and hours across weeks and weeks of me leather-working and jewelry-making until I finally got in. Now that journey ends as well.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

3791

I love these kinds of coincidences! Even the man's death was steeped in the lore of Middle-earth.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Just started Tales from Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

Just started what I am honestly shocked I have not already read, that being Tales from Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin.
 
As I have said, to no other author besides Tolkien do I owe so much, as it was by sailing the Earthsea Archipelago that the seeds for the Fantasy series I wrote were planted. Now it is time to return to those hallowed shores where walked Erreth-Akbe and Ged. Now, from the Archives of Havnor, tis time to learn of the Founding of the School of Roke and much else besides.
(I also got something of a shock on realizing that the book on my shelf is a signed first edition.)

Saturday, May 1, 2021

I just finished for the second time the Cygnet Duology by Patricia A. McKillip

I just finished for the second time The Cygnet and the Firebird by Patricia A. McKillip, the second book of her Cygnet Duology.
Beyond Ro Holding lies a volatile land shaped by sand and war and myths of Dragons, the thoughts of these majestic beasts transcending time and space. Yet the Dragon hunts the Cygnet while Firebird cries warning and untold grief whose riddle is both guide and guard, and in reading this book I am again amazed by it.
 
May the stars guide your paths Meguet Vervaine (& and the Gatekeeper), Nyx Ro & Brand Saphier, Calyx and Iris and Lauro Ro, and Rad Ilex.